Chris Gethard - The Chris Gethard Show [TV Show] (Cover Artwork)
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Chris Gethard

The Chris Gethard Show [TV Show] (2017)


When one is asked how to describe the Chris Gethard show, there really is no adequate response. It’s a talk show… centered around a guy who had a comedy special about suicide… but there are other cast members like a talking fish-man and a guy who is always on vacation… and the shows usually have a theme… but they don’t always stick to the theme… and the division between audience and cast isn’t really that clear… and they kind of just take calls throughout the program…but, it’s LIVE. That’s the show’s defining factor.

I don’t need to name names, but modern talk shows have become so engineered and calculated, that they are simply, stale white, bread. I don’t need to see the Rock Hula hooping while lip syncing the words to “Who let the dogs out.” I don’t need to hear some rich guy talk about his vacation to the Ivory coast. And for the love of God, I don’t need “did you gataloada what was in the newspaper today?!”

It wasn’t always this way. Letterman used to let things get out of control once in a while and would mock his own show because of it. The funniest part of Carson was when an alligator would crap on his desk or try to bite his arm off. Going further back, in the age of Jack Parr, the shows were at their peak when guests would respond in unexpected ways, leading to real moments- not a constant flood of PR angles.

So, that’s why the original version of the Chris Gethrd show, which ran on Manhattan Public access for almost five years gained such a cult following. Here was a guy running an actual live show where things could, and often did go wrong. Certainly, there was excitement in the mere suggestion that the show might come crashing down. But also, because there were fewer barriers the cast of TCGS could engage in real, heavy duty, meaningful conversation or simply eat burritos of people’s bellies for no good reason. They were able to play both ends of the spectrum and do it with style while most other shows were just milquetoast.

And, it was no secret that when the show was snatched up by Fusion and made into a pre-recorded program, and cut down to 30 minutes, the show had problems. The spark of insanity was gone and everything felt rushed, plotted, and frankly, predictable.

Which is why the show, in its latest incarnation, now presented by truTV is so successful. It’s back to being live and has a full hour and everything is better because of it. Thankfully, the show is retaining its core distinction. Episode 5 “Meth and Geth Talk about Deth” found the unlikely pair of Gethard and Wu-Tangs Method Man discussing mortality. You find me any other talk show where guests get this heavy. But, therein lies the power of the modern TCGS. Sure, the show was heavy, but thanks to the generally insanity of the show in of itself- random people calling in, co-host Shannon O’Neill portraying the grim reaper, a crack houseband- there was a certain whims that alleviate and underscored the show’s weighty matter.

Yet, perhaps most interestingly, the show also gave Method Man a platform to demonstrate his own depth, sensitivity, and wisdom. As with any music that has violent themes, be it Wu-Tang gangsta tales, hardcore punk beatdown stories, or even Waylon Jennings robbery legends, one always asks, “is there more to this guy than the violent angle, or is the bash-em-up really all there is?” Method Man not only fit perfectly within the show, but demonstrated a certain tenderness- and to boot, it didn’t make him look weaker, but that much “tougher” and wizened. By the end of the show, we truly did gain a new understanding for the emcee. Compare this to other talk shows where, say, Jennifer Lawrence might be staring in disgust at the giggling host as he asks her how she cuts the crust off her PB and J. That didn’t actually happen mind you, but you get my drift.

Likewise, “Take a Chance” found people calling in and saying that they were going to take a chance on something – i.e. asking someone out, going back to school- while the audience and guests gave their opinion on said endeavor. Guests Tig Notaro and Patton Oswalt were there, but more to chill out than “perform.” Frankly, it was really interesting to see these two famed comedians kind of lounging and giving a frank, honest opinion as opposed to them running through an act. And, we also learned how razor sharp they both are.

The fact is, there ain’t no show on TV right now like the Chris Gethard show. It’s earnest and unpredictable. But, perhaps most importantly, it strives for new levels of what a talk show can do, in part, by adhering to the format of the originators from the ‘30s and ‘40s. Through its extended guest interviews and random call ins, the show really does find morsels of wisdom in unplanned conversation. In this age of plastic TV programming, this show is important, essential, and frankly, a lot of fun.